About the Department

Eric Beerbohm

Eric Beerbohm

Professor of Government
Political Theory

Eric Beerbohm is Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of Graduate Fellowships at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. His philosophical and teaching interests include democratic theory, theories of distributive justice, and the philosophy of social science. His current book project, If Elected: The Ethics of Lawmaking and Campaigning, develops a theory for lawmakers and candidates operating within a malfunctioning legislative system. What kinds of commitments, promises, and pledges can candidates make? In the “victory lab" of electoral poltics, what are the ethics of the political stump? In a polarized legislature, what are the moral limits of legislative politics? His third project, Small Government, considers the division of labor between the public, voluntary, and private sectors. It raises agent-relative problems for distributive justice: How much must the state do itself? What can it privatize? And what can it offload to voluntary organizations? His first book, In Our Name: The Ethics of Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2012, 368 pp.), considers the responsibilities of citizens for the injustices of their state. A Marshall Scholar, Truman Scholar, and Mellon Fellow in the Humanities and Social Sciences, he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2008, B.Phil. in Philosophy from Oxford University, and BA in Political Science and the Program in Ethics in Society from Stanford University. He is a recipient of the 2012 Roslyn Abramson Award, Harvard's highest award for teaching given annually to two faculty in Arts and Sciences for "excellence and sensitivity in undergraduate teaching." He is Founding Director of the Undergraduate Fellowship Program at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.  

  • If Elected: The Ethics of Lawmaking and Campaigning  (Abstract)
    • Chapter 1: The Inner Morality of Lawmaking
    • Chapter 2: Representation's Dilemma
    • Chapter 3: Is Democratic Leadership Possible?
    • Chapter 4: The Problem of Clean Hands: Negotiated Compromise
    • Chapter 5: The Inner Morality of Campaigning
    • Chapter 6: Electioneering and The Problem of the Other Horse
    • Chapter 7: Damned If You Don't: The Limits of Legislative Politics
    • Chapter 8: Blaming Congress: A Field Guide
    • Chapter 9: Inducing Legislative Action
    • Chapter 10: Campaigning After the Revolution
  • Small Government


    Papers Under Review/Working Papers

    • “The Common Good: A Buckpassing Account,” with Ryan Davis
    • “The Vote Pump Argument: Procrastination in Lawmaking”  
    • "Coherence as a Design Principle: A Response to John Ferejohn”
    • “Detecting Causal Masking,” with Adam Glynn and Anton Strezhnev
    • “Nozick’s Wager: Uncertainty and Distributive Justice”
    • “Truth, Lies and Public Reason: A Reply to Joshua Cohen,” with Kritika Yegnashankaran 
    • “Politics, Stakes, and Integrity”


    Email Address


    Office Locations

    1737 Cambridge Street, CGIS K421, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 384-9268

    Office Hours

    Mondays 4 - 5, CGIS K421 & Thursdays 3:30 - 4:30, Safra Ethics Center


    Current Courses

    Recent Talks:

    • Sullivan Lecture on Ethics and Government, Georgetown University, 2015
    • Oxford University
    • Essex University
    • London School of Economics
    • Duke University
    • University College London
    • Washington University
    • College of the Holy Cross, Debate on Democracy and Voter Ignorance
    • “The Vote Pump Argument,” American Philosophical Association Annual Meeting, Panel on Collective Inaction, December 2014

    Past Undergraduate Courses

    • Social Studies 98id: Ethics and Public Policy
    • Gov 94: Junior Tutorial on Global Justice
    • Gov 94: Egalitarianism

    Graduate Courses

    • Gov 3000: Safra Graduate Seminar: Normative Powers, Theories of Law and Lawmaking, Democratic Equality: Distributive or Social?

    Photo courtesy of Stephanie Mitchell/Photographer, Harvard Gazette   



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